By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I’ve come across a recent blog post on a genealogy site called “blood and frogs” that uses photographs to illustrate general iconography on Jewish gravestones. The photographs were taken 18 years ago, mainly in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.

Stone-carver images

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The wonderful imagery on East European tombstones was created by talented and extraordinarily creative stone-carvers who are now, for the most part, anonymous. Everyone so often, a photograph of a more recent traditional stone-carver turns up. Sergey Kravstov has sent me the image below.

Stone-cutter in Ostroh, Volhynia (c. 1912-14)
The illustration is from the catalogue: The Jewish Art of Solomon Yudovin (1892-1954). From Folk Art to Socialist Realism, by Ruth Apter-Gabriel (Jerusalem, 1991). Yudevin was a wonderful artist born near Vitebsk, the same town where  Marc Chagall was born.

The drypoint at right, dated 1939, is clearly based on the photo at left, taken in Ostroh/Ostrog in Volhynia — probably during the  expedition into Ukraine led by the Yiddish writer An-Sky  in 1912-14 to document the rapidly disappearing Jewish cultural life of the shtetl.  This would mean that it was taken by Yudovin, who was a photographer on that expedition. It’s a very dramatic shot and to me looks staged!

I have tried to figure out what the design he is carving is — but I can’t make it out….

Here below is a wood cut by Yudevin that shows a funeral at a shtetl’s  Jewish cemetery — including the gravestone of a woman that bears the typical candlestick motif.